Letters from Sandy Hook-Newtown to the World Compiled and Edited by Suzanne Davenport
Copyright © 2013 by Karuna Publications Foreword copyright © 2013 by Monsignor Robert E. Weiss Introduction copyright © 2013 by Suzanne Davenport All letters copyright © 2013 by individual authors of each letter All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, including individual letters, photos, and illustrations without written permission, except by a newspaper or magazine reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review. Published in 2013 by Karuna Publications 55 Powderhorn Drive Wayne, NJ 07470 All photos and illustrations are courtesy of various contributors. See page 488 for complete list. Printed in the United States Interior book design by Clare Cerullo Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request. ISBN 9781939839022 www.karunapublications.org
On a recent trip, I stopped by an art gallery. As I entered, I noticed that there was a large selection of kaleidoscopes. They were all shapes and sizes made from a variety of materials. By definition, a kaleidoscope is a “tubelike instrument containing loose bits of colored glass reflected by several mirrors so that various symmetrical patterns appear as the instrument is rotated.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language). I thought to myself that this is exactly what the community of Newtown is all about. We are all pieces that make a beautiful and intriguing pattern to all who look at us. We have been brought together to create a diversity of patterns that reflect to others the complexity and the simplicity of our lives. We each represent a different color and a different pattern, and yet when all assembled together we create a powerful image that is ever changing and ever new. Each kaleidoscope that I picked up showed something new and unique as I turned it, with ever-changing patterns and colors. So, too, the community of Newtown. We have been described by many as a small, typical New England town. How narrow is that description! We possess a rich history, an ever-changing culture, an intriguing demographic profile, and a community that transcends a typical and stereotyped definition of who we are. We are like a kaleidoscope. The letters in this book reflect the richness of our community. They are written by everyday people whose lives have been enriched by the community in which they live. They tell of faith and citizenship, of commitment to God and to country. They reflect the good times and the hardships, the times of prosperity and struggles, the days when we danced and the days when we sat in silence, the minutes that seemed like hours and the hours that passed too quickly. They reflect our history, our people, our accomplishments, and our everyday stories of life. They celebrate our achievements and our heroes, our place in history from our founding over 300 years ago to this very day. They represent cherished memories and broken hearts, smiles and tears, laughter and anguish. They represent who we are and all that we are about as a community of people. Like a kaleidoscope, we have been tossed and turned through the events of history, but we have held together as a unique community to strengthen and encourage each other in our brightest moments and darkest hours. Pick this book up, as I did those kaleidoscopes, and discover for yourself the richness of the town that we call home. After I sampled each of the unique kaleidoscopes, I noticed a sign that read, “Please do not touch.” Too late, I thought to myself. Then I realized that that is a sign that you will never see in Newtown. Open this book, read these letters, and share our memories, and let your hearts be touched by a special and blessed town in New England that is far from small and typical! Monsignor Robert E. Weiss
My husband and I moved to Sandy Hook, CT, in 1991. Our two sons graduated from Newtown High School. To me, Sandy Hook reminds me of Isle of Palms, SC, where I grew up. On Isle of Palms, everyone knew everyone, and as a child, you couldn’t get away with much because someone would see you and tell your parents! Although the square miles are bigger here, the attitude is the same. Although the Newtown community covers many miles, we are still “small-town.” As a writing major in college, I took a fact-based opinion writing course. The subject of many of my assignments was my community. My instructor and classmates encouraged me to submit my assignments to a local newspaper. I did, and two of them were published. The idea of writing about our town crept into my soul. After weeks of reading letters that poured into our community from around the world (over 10,000 that I read personally) as part of the Newtown Documentation Project and then listening to the media describe our town, after just spending a few hours (maybe a few days), I decided that (1) the love that came in needed to go back out, and (2) I was frustrated by people who did not know us try to tell the world who we are. How could they, when they only saw us in sorrow? Thus Letters from Sandy Hook-Newtown to the World was born. I reached out to friends and asked them to tell their friends. My request was simple: “I just want you to write a letter about life in Sandy Hook/Newtown. You can write about before December 14, about that day, or about since then. These letters are from each of you—your thoughts, your feelings, and your heart!” That was my request. No more, no less. And the book was born. Through this experience, I have learned much. I’ve learned about interesting people who have lived in our town before me. I’ve learned that I am among the many who enjoy our $2.00 movies at Edmond Town Hall, the ice cream at our two local shops, the Labor Day Parades, and, most of all, our flagpole in the middle of the road. I have felt the sorrow that still fills people’s hearts and souls; I have experienced the pride that young adults who have lived their whole lives in our community feel; I share the memories of families whose children played and learned in Sandy Hook School; I embrace my new friendship with an author whose signature is on so many of my children’s books; I feel the frustration and anxiety of those who were not home on December 14 and couldn’t wait to get back to their families; I share the anger that still flows through our community; I cherish the serenity of beautiful spaces within our town; I remember how much I loved being an involved parent in SHS; I am reminded of the loss one feels when you no longer have a family member to embrace daily; I smile at the fact that someone had the nerve to steal our beloved flag (not once—but twice); my heart hurts with the students from SHS who will have memories that no person should ever have; my heart mourns for the families that have been broken both that day and since and yet they continue on as best they can; my arms ache to hold each and every one of the people who have shared their stories
and bared their souls to help me to reach out to the rest of the world to let everyone know who we are . . . a community of love, hate, compassion, anger, caring, sorrow, kindness, and hope—just like so many other communities in the world. I have also learned that although my request was about our community, many could not write about our community without touching on December 14, 2012. It has forever changed our lives in so many different ways. Some of these letters express how deeply it has affected us. I have tried to incorporate photos that I have taken (except for those credited otherwise) with letters when possible. Some of the locations are ones that you have seen on television—now I hope you appreciate them as we know these locations—a park where children spend summers at camp, youngsters crawl over playgrounds, water is splashed all over, teams play sports and parents cheer; places of worship in good times and not just bad; our wonderful flagpole that all of the locals know how to navigate around; and our quaint center of Sandy Hook that only takes about one minute to get through, with its wonderful stores, restaurants, and views. Letters is my way of showing who we really are, not just who you saw on television, with our tears pouring out and our hearts breaking, but these letters are the people of Sandy Hook-Newtown. Please get to know us and know what a great community we have. The book is about us. And I think we’ve done a good job of showing that. I did this project out of love. I did this to help us heal. I did this in memory of Anne-Marie and all the others no longer with us. I do this to honor all Sandy HookNewtown families. And if one person feels better for being a part of this project—then all the hours spent reading and crying as I received another letter was all worth it. Our hearts have been broken. I’m not sure when they will heal. But I’m hopeful that this project is a start. *** It is also important to me that everyone knows that this was not about making money. All of the profits are going to charitable funds to help our community heal.
Sandy Hook School sign
Baseball field at Treadwell Park
A personâ€™s upbringing is the most important stage of their life. The early years are when personality and code of ethics are instilled within us. When I think of Sandy Hook, I think about how lucky I am to have had the life I had. I remember all of the times spent with friends and family over the years. Growing up in a small town like ours, you work your way through school with the same group of kids, year after year. Your classmates are people that you have known from kindergarten through high school. Youâ€™ve watched them grow up, while growing up yourself. I also think back to all of the events shared with my friends over the years, from Sock Hops and Jolly Green Giant Fairs to Prom and Homecoming. I can remember lining up on picture day and playing out on the playground during Field Day. Sandy Hook School and the experiences that I had there, created some of the most important friendships that I have to this day and shaped me into the person that I am today. I can remember every baseball game, whether it be at SHS, SAC field, on the fields behind (what is now) Reed Intermediate or the fields across the street in Fairfield Hills. When I think of home, I replay the happy memories that came with such an incredible childhood. When others hear that I am from Sandy Hook and at one time walked those very halls myself, they now associate my childhood home with the small glimpse of us that they have seen on television. However, the negative connotation that our town has gained from their perspective is lost on me. I see my friends and my family. I see the love that our community has demonstrated, and the strength of a bond that can bring a whole town together. I am proud to say that I am from Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Bobby Davenport
Baseball fields behind Reed Intermediate
Dear Newtown Students, This Thursday, June 13, 2013, has been declared “Thank You Thursday” by Newtown High School’s Principal’s Advisory Committee. PAC would like the entire school to take an opportunity to say thank you to someone who has impacted them in a positive way. This is my thank you to you. This has been a horribly devastating school year. When Hurricane Sandy blew in and disrupted a week of school and Halloween (again!) in the beginning of the year, we had no idea that was just the beginning. We lost Chris, six educators, twenty first graders, and Ben. Our town was thrown into chaos as the media converged over and over. You attended memorial after memorial. You watched your parents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, spiritual leaders, first responders, and the other adults in your life lose it in ways you don’t see adults lose it too often. And you watched them do it over and over. It would have been very easy for you to give up. To stop doing school work, stop going to school, to walk away from the adults in your life. To give up, to lay down, and to check out. Some of you did, but not for long. You got back up. You bounced back with kindness. You hugged those adults either physically or with your words and actions. You showed a resiliency that I didn’t think was capable from so many young people. Even better, you got involved. You made choices to stand up for what you thought was right. You shared your views, you created art, you voiced your thoughts, you showed the adults in this town that you are going to be OK, that we are all going to be OK. You made a difference. And you were there not just for the adults, but also for each other. It was beautiful to observe. Don’t stop doing that, keep that kindness going. Carry it with you through your lives. And carry that resiliency with you, too. You got through this, you can get through anything the future throws at you. Remember what is important—each other. Remember what helped you and help someone else. Remember that it is ok to ask for help and that help is there for you if you need it. Remember that you have a town that loves you and will always be here for you. Remember to come home after you graduate and tell us what great things you have done with your life. So, on this first Thank You Thursday, I thank you for reminding me why I went into teaching. You are all incredible! With much love, Lisa Sheridan
August 2013 Dear Reader, Ah, Newtown! Forty six years of memories all beginning in September of 1967. It’s hard to imagine that I’ve spent two thirds of my life here. On top of that I spent 32 of those years working in the very community where I live. That began in September of 1973 at Sandy Hook School were I served as a 4th and 5th grade teacher, a lead teacher for three years and finally as the school’s math/science specialist for 4 years until my retirement in 2004. My wife and I raised two children in this town and eventually my wife established an accounting firm with her partner here. So our ties to Newtown are quite strong and certainly well established. I have seen many changes throughout the years. But it seems the one thing that has served to keep me rooted so to speak is my years at Sandy Hook School. There were many times when I would have colleagues ask me how I could possibly stand teaching in the same community where I lived. It must be such a nuisance to have my private life scrutinized to the same extent as my professional life. Nothing could be further from the truth. I loved having past and present students and their parents greet me in stores, restaurants and just about anywhere else I went. The friendliness and affection shown to me was a constant source of comfort. Make no mistake. I had my share of distractors but they were in the minority and not nearly as troublesome as you might think. I have been retired for 9 years and while I have found plenty to do, not the least of which is frequently baby sitting for 4 grand children, I still find myself thinking of my days at Sandy Hook School— especially now. I have many wonderful memories but one in particular involves the parent conferences we used to have twice a year. The rule was that one of those conferences had to be an evening conference to accommodate the schedules of working parents. On numerous occasions parents would use that opportunity to invite me to their houses for dinner after which we would discuss their child’s progress. I don’t know of many other places where something like that would happen. It served to cement relations and show the students that their education was a cooperative effort because we cared about them. There are so many other things—the Jolly Green Giant fair, dozens of school bus field trips, Push Cart Wars Day, the Parade of States, plays, concerts, on and on and of course the most important thing of all—the kids—many of whom have reached out to me on Facebook. It’s a source of great satisfaction to see how well so many of them are doing. There’s a great deal more but I’ll spare you further nostalgia. Suffice it to say these past several months have been painful beyond words—for the entire town—not just me. But at least I have all those great memories to draw on. And now a word about the future, my older grandson will be starting kindergarten at Sandy Hook School this year. I have already reached out to them as a volunteer so I can continue to look forward to many more good memories. I think that’s the key to getting through this good life. Dwell on the good stuff and keep moving. Simple, right? Well, maybe not so simple but it’s the only way. I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Regards, George Stockwell
Neighbors Dear World, This was my school. As I found myself in the halls of Monroe’s Chalk Hill School in January 2013, helping to prepare the building’s classrooms to become the new home of Sandy Hook School after the horrific events of 12/14/12, this was one of the many thoughts that I had as I moved through the building: this was my school. There were two reasons that I had such a personal reaction: not only was I born and raised in Sandy Hook and a graduate of SHS, but I was also a teacher at Chalk Hill for nine years until it was closed in 2011 for reasons that many of my colleagues and I still have difficulty understanding. (There has been quite a lot of discussion amongst us since that December day about knowing now why Chalk Hill was fated to close when it did . . .) Those of us that taught at Chalk Hill know that the walls of that building are filled with love and warmth, that there is something very special about that place that made it so emotionally difficult for us to leave, and that those same qualities make us so happy that it is now embracing the students and staff of Sandy Hook with the same warmth as it serves as their second home. In the days after 12/14, Sandy Hook School became everyone’s school; the world, through letters, teddy bears, flowers, and other gifts, made it known how much it cared for and supported the students and staff there. As a teacher in the neighboring town with a personal connection to SHS, those feelings were quite intense for me. All I wanted to do was help. I didn’t know what to do, or how, but I had to do something. And I wasn’t alone; many of my Monroe colleagues were ready to jump at any chance to help, and that fervor grew exponentially once it was decided that Chalk Hill, which had largely been sitting fallow for two years, was going to be the new home of SHS. Let’s just say that our administrators knew how anxious we were to do anything that was needed to help our now literal next-door neighbors. In January 2013, our opportunity to help had come. Monroe teachers, especially those who had worked at Chalk Hill, were asked to help prepare the building for Sandy Hook’s arrival. This was our chance to directly help our neighbors—to not feel so useless in the face of such monumental tragedy. It goes without saying that we jumped at the chance to do so. Now, if you know teachers, you know that we are all about order, expectations and organization. We like everything in just the right place, everything just so. While the unexpected and the chaotic in the classroom can be fun sometimes, obviously that was the exact opposite of what the people coming to this building were looking for. We knew that the effort of returning to school after what had happened—and in an unfamiliar building in a different town at that—would be unimaginably difficult for the students and staff, but we knew that this was exactly what we could do to help—to in some small way, restore order. To help them put things into place, at least physically, in their new classrooms. This, of course, was part of the game plan for those running the move to Chalk Hill. When we arrived there to get to work, our job was mainly to prepare classroom bulletin boards so that they were ready for the teachers to use. It would be one less thing for them to have to prepare themselves. The first room that I worked on was going to be a first grade classroom. As I think back now on the gravity of that, it still gives me chills, but at that time there was a job to be done. And as inappropriate as it may sound, there was also a certain positive feeling that is difficult to explain. It was the feeling of not only being helpful in a tangible way, but being back in Chalk Hill, knowing it was going to be a school
again and that it would be a home away from home for a group of very special people, some of whom were the children of my childhood classmates. Maybe it was a feeling of honor. I currently teach in a school where I can look out the window and see Sandy Hook School at Chalk Hill. Many of us have snowflakes, which were shared with us by our SHS neighbors, in our classroom windows that were sent from schools and homes all over the world, just as the Sandy Hook teachers do, to show that we (and the world) are with them. When the students arrived at their new school after the winter holiday break, we were ready to stand outside and block the media from filming them, just so they could have a slightly more “normal” return to school. (Luckily it wasn’t an issue that morning.) We share the same driveway. We wave to each other as we arrive in the morning and as we leave in the evening. Just like neighbors. So, what would I like the world to know? Whether you had the opportunity to help directly like I did, or were halfway around the world sending cards, hearts, drawings, snowflakes or letters of support, it was proof that we are all neighbors, and that we don’t have to be right next door to each other to offer our words or acts of care. Being a neighbor isn’t about proximity, it’s about how you treat those that are within reach. The aftermath of the horrific events that took place in my hometown revealed that we are a worldwide community that is ready to help its neighbors, however far away they may be. If you acted with kindness in the name of those who were taken from us, you have made Sandy Hook your neighbor, and SHS your school. Consciously or subconsciously, we have all tried to do our small part in making sure that those teachers and students know that they are cared for, that they are supported by their neighbors near and far, and that, as a wise young lady was known to say, “Love wins.” Sincerely, Matthew Husvar
Snowflakes from all over the world
Middle Gate School 1850 (Originally Bear Hill School District 1783)
Sandy Hook Memories—89 years In 1916, my father and mother, Stefan and Anna Leitner Heller, settled in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. My father yearned for country life and took a job as a caretaker for Newton M. Curtis on Curtis Hill—now Riverside Road. With a handshake and a promise, my father acquired 39 acres of woodlands from Mr. Curtis (on Pole Bridge Road) where he built a 5-room house for my mother, sister Stefania and me who came along on April 6, 1924. My father was a man of his word and remained working for Mr. and Mrs. Curtis for 44 years. In those days, Sandy Hook was the farming part of Newtown and my family was very self-sufficient. We had no electricity or running water. We raised our own vegetables, cows, chickens, hogs, had apple trees and a grapevine arbor. My mother worked hard, too. She took care of me and Stefania who was handicapped and 16 years older than me. Besides cooking, baking and canning fruits and vegetables, she worked the farm right alongside my father. My mother was a strong woman in many ways. We never had a car until I started teaching and we walked everywhere and thought nothing of it. In 1929 at the age of 5 years, I started first grade at Sandy Hook School which was a four-room schoolhouse located on Riverside Road; today it is where the medical office is located. There was no kindergarten in those days and I walked about a mile by myself along our tree-lined, dirt road to catch my school bus at the corner of Berkshire Road. There was no such thing as a “snow day” and many winter days, I plowed through snow above my knees. From first through high school, my bus driver was Mr. Arthur Page. My first grade teacher was Miss Bridget Kane and she was the one who dubbed me “Lucy”. My family belonged to St. Rose Church and every Friday afternoon the school bus would come to Sandy Hook School and pick up the children who attended religious education and bring us to St. Rose. When I was older and attending Hawley School, we simply walked across and down Church Hill Road for our religious instruction during regular school hours. In the 1930’s in addition to working for the Curtis’, my father was also the caretaker for James and Althea Thurber. They were living in the former Wheeler house right next door to Newton and Blanche Curtis. One of the chapters in The Thurber Carnival is entitled, “The Black Magic of Barney Haller” and is about my father who spoke with a heavy German accent. No one who knew my father was ever fooled by the change of name in Thurber’s title. From 1935 through 1941, I attended Hawley School on Church Hill Road for grades sixth through twelfth. Upon graduation from Hawley High School in 1941, I attended Danbury State Teacher’s College, now Western Connecticut State University. WWII had a tremendous impact on all our lives. By my second year of college, all the men had left to serve in the war. In order to help with the shortage of teachers, the 19 women who remained in my class gave up our summer vacation to complete our training in 3 ½ years. In October 1944, I finished my training and was immediately hired by Mr. Legrow to teach sixth grade at Hawley School. Those of us who began teaching before our formal graduation in 1945 were called “cadet teachers”. Having graduated from Hawley High School, Mr. Legrow knew me well and had a lot of confidence in me.
Instead of reporting to Hawley School on my first day of work in November 1944 at the age of 20 years, I welcomed my first class at the one-room school house on Huntingtown Road—across the road from the synagogue. Huntingtown School along with several other one-room schoolhouses had been re-opened to accommodate classes while the addition was being built at Hawley School. Except for the upgrade of electricity, a telephone line and a new cloak room, the Huntingtown schoolhouse was basically unchanged from its original years. We had an outhouse, a well with a hand-pump and a pot-bellied stove for heat. For the students and me, this was a very unique and memorable time. It was a tremendous learning experience. The sixth graders in my classes became like a close knit family. Everyone cared for and looked out for each other. They learned the importance of helping, respecting and depending on one another; they learned much more than text book lessons. One of the greatest lessons they learned was compassion for others. Wilbur Platt was a fifteen year old young man who was confined to a wheelchair and had never attended formal school before coming into my class. Wilbur was a very, very bright young man who had perfect attendance for the two years that he was in my sixth grade class. I am pretty sure that he was the first special education student in Newtown who was mainstreamed into a regular education classroom. At lunch time, the other students would open his lunch for him and get his sandwich out. I don’t think Wilbur ever knew how much he contributed to the other students in his classes. They learned that not everyone is blessed with the same gifts and how important it is to help one another. I retired from teaching over 26 years ago and this April will be 90 years old. Sandy Hook was an idyllic place to grow up, a supportive community to work in and where growing old means being surrounded by a loving family, golden friends and helpful neighbors who check-in on me. I thank God each and every day for the many blessings in my life and although some of these cherished memories may be fading, they will remain in my heart forever. With love, Aloise “Lucy” Heller Mulvihill September 2013
Halloween on Main Street, Newtown
Sandy Hook Firehouse
Dear World, It’s a well-known fact that I love to talk. My husband and sons—not so much. It got to the point that it was a game—let’s see if Mom can get in and out of the store without stopping to talk to anyone. I don’t think I ever won that game! Or if I did—it was so few times that it’s almost not worth mentioning. That is one of the things I love (or hate if I haven’t showered, my hair is not having a good day and I just need one gallon of milk—that is in the farthest corner of the store)—you always see someone you know. And that is also what makes our town just like thousands of other small towns . . . you always see someone you know! Don’t you do that? Don’t you run into the grocery store for just one thing and forty five minutes later (the ice cream half melted in your bag) you finally walk out. But you walk out feeling good because you connected with someone you haven’t seen in a while. “A while” could mean last week or two years ago when your kids were both on the same baseball team! But it doesn’t matter. You catch up in the first two minutes and then continue your conversation like you just spoke yesterday. It’s what life is like in a small town. In a town where the woman that owns the bagel place asks about your kids by name . . . where the kid cutting your deli meat went to school with your son . . . where the physical therapist who works on your shoulder is good friends with your husband (so no trashing your husband while you are laying on the table next to the woman whose daughter is close friends with your son and he was just over their house the other day) . . . this is my town. My town is not that glimpse that the world saw. We are not just that moment. Although that moment is forever etched upon our hearts along with a great portion of the rest of the world—as many people have stated before (and will state over and over again) December 14, 2012 does not define us. You might think it did. Some of us here in town might even think it did. But I don’t. It made some of us change our lives. We think about some things differently now. I cringe a bit every time I hear a siren. My soft whisper under my breath of “be safe” every time I heard the sirens now means something different. Now my wish for safety includes those first responders as well. Because now I realize that the call they are going on, can be just as dangerous for them as for the people they are going to help. When I first started this project, I thought 90% of the letters would state “everybody knows everybody” in our community but that didn’t happen. Maybe because it’s a given, we don’t even have to say it. We all know each other. And now, we all share something that could either rip our community apart or bring us together. When you are as small a community as we are—you can’t just go on with your life without making some changes after the tragedy of December 14, 2012. People can step up or they can check out. Or they can try to go on as they did before. The rest of the world may have moved on—because that is how life happens. But yet, I know I can’t go on as I did before. I’ve made changes in my life and I will continue to make more. I hope what our town has experienced will be a catalyst for others to make changes in their lives. To realize what is important to them. We were brought to our knees in pain and anguish. But I am SANDY HOOK STRONG! And will continue to be so! With love, Suzanne Davenport
12/21/2012 I grew up in a town with a flagpole placed awkwardly in the middle of Main Street, where the loudest sound was the high school marching band at the Friday night football game and the worst worry was forgetting a book in your locker after school. I read my name in the local paper when I made the honor roll, greeted my neighbors by name at the Starbucks where I held my first job, ordered my chocolate-banana-peanut-butter ice cream from the town creamery—a place so fresh you can smell manure from the cows on the premises while you eat. At Sandy Hook School, I sat on the floor in Mr. Ballerini’s fourth grade class while he read Harry Potter aloud, and I performed an original song about Jacques Cousteau on Explorer Day. Here, I learned important things about the world, like what kind of tea they serve in Japan and to where the Frilled Lizard is an indigenous animal. I made lifelong friends rehearsing for the class musical. I grew up fearing ghosts and monsters and boogie men, the kind that children and children alone fear; the kind you grow up and get over by convincing yourself that the world is a good place, where extraterrestrials don’t haunt you in your sleep and bad guys don’t lurk in your closet, waiting for you to least expect them. In the years since I left this town, I’ve returned to a place where I look forward to fresh apples in the fall and a used book sale in the summer. A place where I now put on mascara when I go into town, because the drug store can be an impromptu high school reunion. A place where I often drive the longest route possible, just so I can see the beauty of the old houses and winding streets in the place that is my truest home. Last weekend, I returned to the same town, but to a very different place. A place overflowing with reporters and cameras and teddy bears and handmade ribbons and tears and empty words of reassurance, a place of heartbreak beyond all reasonable measure. I returned to a place where 20 innocent children, 6 heroes, and 1 mother have made history in the worst way possible. To a place where 27 lives have become pictures and candles and names on a list read by the President of the United States of America. I do not know what to do with this sadness. I do not know where to place my sorrow for these families, my numbness, my overwhelming sense of loss, my feeling that a piece of my own foundation has been ripped out from under me. I cannot convince myself that these ghosts will not haunt me, nor that the bad guys won’t find me in my simple little town. When I wake up in the middle of the night in fear, I can’t crawl into my parents’ room with a blanket until morning proves the evil is just pretend. I have to turn on the TV, think of something else, and hope I fall asleep in spite of it all. My solace comes when I tell myself that we are not alone. That though I know the route to Treadwell Park with my eyes closed, though I accepted my first boyfriend over science-class rockets on the playground of Sandy Hook School, though money from this school’s scholarship fund helped me pay for college, I share my grief with the world. With every parent, every teacher, every student who ever went to any elementary school, anywhere.
The issues behind this tragedy are complex and painful. But to ever recover from this horror, this both surreal and vivid nightmare, we have to do something to keep this from happening again. Nothing will make the cost these families must bear worthwhile, but we can try to stop others from the same suffering. The people of Newtown can organize, whether to run a gift-wrap fundraiser, host a rubber-duck race in the local creek, or create meaningful and necessary change in the world. I hope you stay with us, because with your help, we will do great things. With sorrow and hope, Tory
Flagpole at the intersection of Main Street and Church Hill Road
Basketball court, playground, pool, pavilion, and baseball field at Treadwell Park
Soccer field and tennis courts at Treadwell Park
I grew up in Sandy Hook. My childhood is Sandy Hook. 18 years of my life is Sandy Hook. My memories are Sandy Hook. The deepest pain I have ever felt in my 30 years was in Sandy Hook. I am Sandy Hook. I had a baseball field on my street. I could walk to my best friend’s house. We rode our bikes in Sandy Hook. We played football, baseball, and basketball in Sandy Hook. We grew up in Sandy Hook. We became men in Sandy Hook. I am Sandy Hook. I went to pre-school at Trinity. I went to Hawley School and Sandy Hook School. I had my first kiss at Sandy Hook School during recess. I walked the hallways of Sandy Hook School. I am Sandy Hook. I laid in Ram’s Pasture. I ate at My Place Pizza. I went to movies at Edmund Town Hall for $1. I went to the St. Rose carnival. I worked at Rock Ridge Country Club. I graduated from Newtown Middle School and Newtown High School. I drank my first beer in Sandy Hook. I fell in love for the first time in Sandy Hook. I am Sandy Hook. I swam in Lake Zoar. I’ve played soccer at Treadwell Park. I swam to the dock at Dickinson Park. I’ve stood at the flagpole at midnight. I’ve eaten at the General Store. I have seen the insides of Fairfield Hills. I am Sandy Hook. I trick-ortreated through all neighborhoods in Newtown. I attended Labor Day parades on Main Street. I went to the tree lightings. I’ve been to weddings in Sandy Hook. I’ve been to funerals at Honan’s. I’ve seen every gym and field in Newtown. I’ve been to every park in Newtown. I am Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook raised me. The people, the places, the things are part of me. Wherever I go and whoever I meet gets a taste of Sandy Hook. I am a man because of Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook has forever changed. My childhood and memories have not. I am and will always be Sandy Hook. I smile and get goose bumps when I think of Sandy Hook. Nathan Daniel Gaines is Sandy Hook. And Sandy Hook is Nathan Daniel Gaines!